The Honda NX650 Dominator has become one of the world’s most custom platforms. The 45-hp four-valve single has plenty of punch, coupled with electric start and a reputation for rugged reliability. But for stonemason, author, and bike-builder Chris Daniels of UK workshop Marmisto, the 90s Pro-Link chassis was a non-starter for the DirtQuake-inspired twin-shock street tracker he had in mind.
Fortunately, Chris is one of the most creative builders we know. Rather than shaping each build to match an initial drawing or design brief, he prefers to take a more organic approach, adapting and reworking available parts, letting each bike grow out of the ingredients at hand:
“My approach to building is adaption first, so rather than buy new I’ll always see what’s available in the huge used parts world that will fit in with the design. This means that the bike isn’t built from a drawing but grows with the parts used; a more satisfying organic approach that works when one understands how bikes work and what looks good. It’s also a lot cheaper!”
In this case, Chris wondered if the electric-start, dry-sump 650cc Honda RFVC engine might fit into the twin-shock frame of a 70s Yamaha TT500 — the dirt-only version of the mighty Yamaha XT500, which won the first two Paris-Dakar Rallies and remains one of the greatest big-bore enduros ever to roost a plume of dust across the desert.
“Being compact it slotted neatly into a 70’s Yamaha TT twin-shocker frame which, being oil in frame, has the same lube system as the Honda. So, the project began.”
This Honda-powered 650cc TT is now sporting a GSX1100 alloy swingarm, 316 stainless two-into-one exhaust, R6 forks, 19-inch wheels, toolbox, DT125 tank with tattoo art from one of his daughters, Chris’s signature random-holed alloy filter, and much more. As often happens, Chris planned to keep this TT-NX street tracker for himself, but it wasn’t to be:
“I was going to keep her for personal use, but got talked into selling as the buyer wanted a light, nimble ride for his daily commute through the Somerset country lanes, so back to the drawing board…”
If you like what you see here, check out Chris’s book Customizing Your Motorcycle: Shed-Built to Show Bike, a 176-page guide to workshop setup, tools, donor bikes, popular styles, and everything from welding to paint to upholstery!
Marmisto NX-TT650 Street Tracker: In the Builder’s Words
I love slim stripped-down bikes as they epitomise for me what bikes should be about — light, agile, and fun. Last summer I competed at DirtQuake on my hastily lashed together TT540, so when a beat-up 1990 NX650 made its way into the shed — and having caught the flattrack bug, a flattracker for road and race was on the cards — here was the bike to do it with…
Once all the plastics and tinware came off it was obvious that the standard frame was a non-starter, so the rolling chassis was sold off to someone with more optimism and time than me, and I was left with the sturdy little electric start engine. Being compact it slotted neatly into a 70’s Yamaha TT twin-shocker frame which, being oil in frame, has the same lube system as the Honda. So, the project began.
My approach to building is adaption first, so rather than buy new I’ll always see what’s available in the huge used parts world that will fit in with the design. This means that the bike isn’t built from a drawing but grows with the parts used; a more satisfying organic approach that works when one understands how bikes work and what looks good. It’s also a lot cheaper!
The detabbed frame had a tighter loop welded onto the rear end, mounts attached and 7075 aluminium engine plates.
The motor was soda-blasted, top end rebuilt, blacked up with polished fins and all fixings replaced with stainless (FYI I can supply a complete stainless nut and bolt kit for the NX through my site). Starter motor rebuilt, stretched manifold to attach the rebuilt and rejetted carb, with my personal style random holed alloy filter capping it off.
Two into one exhaust is larger bore than standard, built from 316 stainless, 7075 clamps and free breathing reverse cone mega for that essential bark! A used GSX1100 alloy swingarm had new bearings installed to fit the TT spindle and a pair of refurbished Hammerhead shocks with new springs were fitted.
Rear wheel was a used 19” Talon competition wheel that was stripped down, cleaned and painted then relaced with stainless spokes, a wavy disc and 7075 alloy sprocket. Stainless footpegs and a rear brake mechanism designed.
At the front, cleaned-up Yamaha R6 forks hold a Honda CB hub, with big wavy disc, laced using stainless spokes to a 19” alloy rim and a BMW Brembo caliper adapted to fit. The yokes are made up from two R6 bottom yokes and a reworked spindle to fit the headstock. Refurbed 70’s switch gear, Jackhammer grips and new controls sit on solid aluminium vintage cowhorns, GPS speedo in alloy mount, and LED headlight complete the pointy end.
An early DT125 tank was cut and adapted to fit the frame, rattle-can sprayed and with some design help from daughter number two, the tattoo art applied and lacquered over. Seat hump was modelled in situ from clay, a plaster mould taken then laid up in GRP.
The toolbox (or panini case for the hipsters amongst us) is fabricated in alloy, held in place with army surplus straps.
Electrics and battery sit in the frame under the handmade stitched leather seat.
One of the more satisfying aspects was teaching myself electro-plating so that all those little steel brackets and exposed spindle heads were cleaned of the rust that hits ten minutes from leaving the shop, then nickel plated.
I was going to keep her for personal use, but got talked into selling as the buyer wanted a light, nimble ride for his daily commute through the Somerset country lanes, so back to the drawing board…
Customizing Your Motorcycle: Shed-Built to Show Bike
We’re thrilled to announce that Chris’s new book is now available: Customizing Your Motorcycle: Shed-Built to Show Bike.
With custom motorcycles more popular than ever, even the major manufacturers have been keen to capitalize on the new trend, but with hard work, dedication, and a little guidance, it’s incredible what people can accomplish in their home garage or garden shed:
“A custom motorbike is the product of an owner using their own skills to produce an individual machine, and with the right tools and approach it is well within most people’s means to take a standard machine, new or second-hand, and make it their personal statement.”
Chris’s new book introduces readers to the techniques and processes needed to customize their motorcycles, covering a wide array of topics:
- Introduction to the major styles found in today’s custom scene.
- Choosing a suitable donor bike and buying second-hand.
- Workshop tools and setup.
- Components of a bike and custom parts.
- Basic maintenance for a safe and usable bike.
- Modifying frames, building seats and other custom parts.
- Welding, cleaning, and prepping for paint.
The book has 176 pages of info, and more than 400 color photos. Here’s the link to grab a copy of your own: www.crowood.com/details.asp?isbn=9781785003691
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